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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

I Heard the Stars Singing

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Hand to Hand

Gently stroke the palm of one hand with a finger or fingers of the other. Pay attention to the physical sensations and any peace or ease, or wonder, they may bring. Notice sensations, physical and/or emotional, after you stop. Wish yourself peace. And keep it slow, simple and gentle--less is usually better than more. "It's amazing how much how little will do." (Hugh Milne)

I Heard the Stars Singing

Remember Mary Poppins? If you're old enough, you might think back to the 1964 Disney movie, or older still (and/or have a penchant for venerable children's stories), you may remember the original books by Australian-British writer P.L. Travers, the first of which was published in 1934. (I don't know anything about the 2018 movie so I'll leave that out of the discussion.)

I always felt that in the books, Mary Poppins was overly harsh at times, even though the stories were also full of delightful fantasies and wonderful oddball characters. But in the 1964 movie Julie Andrews played Mary--beautiful Ms. Andrews with her dulcet voice--so we went from too severe to too lovely.

But here is a rather amazing quote from the second book, Mary Poppins Comes Back, which hints at the deeper and more beautiful roots of story within P.L. Traver's heart, and which offers, perhaps, more of a sense of balance between strong and lovely. For it is both.

The person talking is baby Annabel, the youngest child in the Banks family, hours after she is born. Speaking a language that only the birds and animals--and Mary Poppins--can


"I am earth and air and fire," she said softly. "I come from the Dark where all things have their beginning....I come from the sea and its tides....I come from the sky and its stars, I come from the sun and its brightness...And I come from the forests of earth....Slowly I moved at first," said Annabel, "always sleeping and dreaming. I remembered all I had been and I thought of all I shall be. And when I dreamed my dream I awoke and came swiftly....I heard the stars singing as I came and felt warm wings about me. I passed the beasts of the jungle and came through the dark deep waters. It was a long journey."

In the book this is interrupted several times by a Starling making comments and by Mary Poppins and the Starling teasing and insulting each other, which makes me wonder if Travers was trying to not be too-too visionary. But that doesn't change the depth of this hymn.

To me it is quite reminiscent of Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," which Travers very likely knew:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting

And cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Anyone who has held a newborn infant who is in the "quiet alert" state and experienced that amazing stare has likely had a whiff of those clouds of glory. I have the great good fortune to be an auntie to many nieces and nephews, and now their children, and to have attended many births when I worked as a labor and delivery nurse back in the 1980s, so I got to repeat that joy a number of times. I even incorporated it into my novel, when fourteen year old Cassi holds her new sister right after she is born: "Lily’s eyes were open, soft and yet incredibly deep, like she was drinking in the world in one slow draught, her body moving in a quiet, wondering dance under the blankets."

Travers has Annabel, who can still talk in her special language, at least to Mary Poppins and the birds, forget--within days--that she ever knew anything of her journey. She was "only a human child after all" as the Starling said, trying to hide his disappointment.

We are all "only human" and we forget the roots of our being oh so easily. But I am convinced there is more to us than biology and chemistry--far more. There is mystery and connection and love and beauty, creative chaos and wonder and being-ness. This is our inheritance. And our legacy.

Hold a newborn baby if you get the chance--it has been a long journey for them. And you might just get a whiff of your own trailing glory.

“Life is a luminous pause between two mysteries that are yet one.” Carl Jung

Until next time,


Photo & illustration credits:

Two hands, Liane Metzler, unSplash

Mary Poppins, Mary Shepard © The Shepard Trust

Stars and rocks, Hamish Dowson, unSplash

Sunset, Samuel Clara, unSplash

Baby and mother,

Trees and light, i--4U, unSplash


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